CORONAVIRUS

Greek PM criticizes EU vaccine rollout, pledges to step up campaign

greek-pm-criticizes-eu-vaccine-rollout-pledges-to-step-up-campaign

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday criticized the European Union’s stumbling rollout of Covid-19 vaccines but said Greece would double its vaccinations in the coming weeks and inoculate everyone over 60 years of age by the end of May.

Greece, which coped relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, has been forced to tighten restrictions to combat a surge in cases over recent months, with hospitals in the worst affected areas around Athens struggling to cope.

Mitsotakis expressed appreciation for the joint purchasing of vaccines by the European Commission, which has helped smaller states such as Greece.

“But at the same time it failed in getting the necessary quantities and supplying member states promptly,” he said in a speech to parliament.

With the summer tourist season fast approaching, vital for Greece’s economy, the government is counting on a beefed-up testing campaign, including home test kits, to curb the virus but Mitsotakis said vaccinations would also be increased in the next few weeks.

Greece, with a population of around 10 million, has administered nearly 1.7 million Covid shots so far and will complete another 1.5 million by the end of April. Everyone over 60 should have had at least one shot by the end of May, he said.

The European Commission has come under fire over its handling of the vaccines rollout and has been engaged in bitter recriminations with Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca , which has delivered only a fraction of the vaccines originally expected.

“The European Union is obliged… to use all the legal tools to force companies which have signed agreements with the bloc to respect their contractual obligations,” including banning exports, Mitsotakis said, backing the Commission, which has said vaccine exports would be blocked until AstraZeneca delivers the shots it promised to the EU. [Reuters]